Joshua's love for writing and fascination with the English language began when he was a wee lad. In his free time, he had explored and settled into the realm of creative writing, occasionally writing reviews on Film and Music. Being a musician and one so deeply involved in the Arts, he offers a unique perspective when analyzing works of the creative mind.
In light of several personal requests, he has decided to offer his review/bio-writing services to the public through commission. Currently, his services will only extend to the following genres:
Music (album reviews etc.)
Short Biographies (websites)
For further information, please contact Joshua. Details can be found in the "Contact" tab above.
Below are some examples of his work (for a Biography sample, please refer to the "Bio" tab above):
The following review was one I wrote for the Naked Andrea Project's debut album, In New Light - which can be found on Spotify. An excerpt of it was published on Hear65's website.
"A New Light, A New Perspective
Naked Andrea Project (NAP): In New Light is a brave endeavour into the world
of modern Jazz and Jazz orchestration spear-headed by freshly graduated
Yong Siew Toh trumpeter, Cui Yihao/Andrea.
Having achieved distinction within the local Classical music scene for continually
pushing the boundaries of both his instrument and musical pursuits, it would come
as no surprise to have Cui test his mettle against the much feared Jazz genre. Jazz
jam sessions are a rite of passage for any aspiring Jazz musician wanting to learn
the language. For Cui, it not only allowed him to further hone his ability as a proficient
Jazz improviser, but also generated the opportunity to very quickly surround himself
with equally talented, like-minded individuals who shared his vision. A New Light is a
product of those onstage meetings, Classical scholarship and camaraderie.
The opening composition, Reminiscent, plunges the listener straight into one of those aforementioned meetings, where we are introduced to the musicians through their instruments; each having a distinct voice. Commonly referred to as "free Jazz", this bird hovers, finds its place and settles upon a driving bass-line laid down by bassist, Eugene Chew. With a rhythmic structure now in place, Reminiscent takes flight once more in the form of a rather mysterious, suspenseful melody akin to a theme of a Spy film before momentarily dipping into a contrasting mellow conversation piece between Cui’s minimalist style and Greg Lyons’ more lyrical approach, that very quickly climbs in altitude. It soars higher still, before nose-diving straight back down to its core; the thumping bass-line. As if to peck cautiously at the ground, the piano of Xavier Lim introduces itself before transporting us to an almost Cuban-esque environment with lush chord-voicings, bluesy lines and percussive rhythms courtesy of Anson Koh. With newfound vigour, Reminiscent surprises us by finding its fifth gear through the clever use of modulation. It sweeps the listener up for the final climax before ending abruptly on a high, leaving us wanting for more. And more we shall receive.
The next track entitled, B’s Manifesto, is quite the departure from the blood-pumping feel Reminiscent had set and is a personal favourite of mine. Composed by the pianist of the NAP, Xavier Lim, I had the luxury of personally hearing the composition take form prior to the experience it has become today, giving me a unique perspective into the direction taken regarding its arrangement.
This medium-tempo waltz opens up with an intricate piano cadenza reminiscent of the piano of Erroll Garner - a huge influence on Lim - which then weaves itself into a rather simple yet captivating melody that showcases beauty through simplicity; a rarity in today’s world of composition. Lim and Lyons offer sincere, heart-felt solos whilst the percussive interplay provided by Koh contributes heavily to the ebullient feel associated with waltzes; one that is often sacrificed in favour of a much, straighter beat. Personally, the incorporation of the flute of Mark Yeo was my favourite addition to this arrangement - it creates a new dimension to a composition I was already familiar with; one I had never thought was so necessary. Never overbearing - perhaps attributed to Cui’s extensive scholarship into scoring and arrangement - the flute adds to an element of wholesomeness to an already good-natured, joyous tune.
B’s Manifesto is a composition that has no fears being straight-forward without the need for overly-complex melodies or jarring time signatures. Playful but honest, its heart is truly an open book.
The third track of this four track album is a composition written by the group’s saxophonist, Greg Lyons entitled, Devious Means.
Right off the get-go we’re thrown into the world of Afro-Cuban sounds and syncopated rhythms. The careful selection of instruments used to create this ensemble really shines through on this tune as blaring horns and percussive piano chord-work are staples of Cuban music, which this arrangement does well to reflect. Interestingly however, the flute finds itself as providing more of a fusion element similar to what one would find on Chick Corea’s early collaborations with Hubert Laws than as part of a traditional Afro-Cuban set-up; without doubt an educated inclusion. Present, is a solo from an often under-utilised instrument in the field of Modern Jazz; the trombone of Erwin Tan. Erwin, along with Yihao effectively recreate the Latin vibe of wailing trombones and high-pitched trumpets whilst Greg adds a more American touch to the mix with his usage of the bebop saxophone lexicon. Towards the end, we are treated to another drum solo that dangerously courts the uneven time signature of 7/8 and its accompanying syncopated groove.
Greg is no stranger to the Jazz art-form and Devious Means proves this, showcasing his ability to utilise odd time-signatures effectively that interlock with the melody to create an ear worm - similar to Paul Desmond’s Take Five or Brubeck’s Unsquare Dance - and not as a meaningless measure of intellectual sophistication. No easy feat.
The final tune of this album is the title-track, In New Light.
Written by Cui Yihao, I found this ballad particularly hard to classify as strictly Jazz or even Modern Jazz. It felt more like a daring journey through different styles; at times reminding me of a long lost classical symphony present in the back-roads of my memory, and at others, a fusion of traditional Jazz and other modern sounds - Bonobo’s Black Sands comes to mind. In short, it lives up to its title. In New Light - is in essence an audacious and creative spin on Jazz composition, encapsulating what the art-form is all about; freedom, reminding us not to be boxed in by labels and rules.
Like most Modern Jazz albums put out by youths today, In A New Light could have very well been a flop. The international Jazz scene has become oversaturated with groups trying too hard by way of strangely placed odd-time signatures and over-engineered equally bizarre, forgettable melodies, really using their musical abilities as a tool to satiate their own egos. Thankfully the Naked Andrea Project does well to avoid the allure of mindless self-gratification.
Sure, given his background, it was a bold step for Cui Yihao as a composer and performer to create this album, but in successfully doing so, it is undeniably, a giant leap for the Singapore Jazz and Music scene as a whole. With him and the rest of the Naked Andrea Project, they bring with them a new light, a new perspective.
I look forward to hearing more from them in the future."
The following is a review I wrote on Tony Gatlif's documentary, Latcho Drom. A definite must watch.
Latcho Drom (1993)
"“Some evenings, I find myself envying the respect that you give to your dog.”
Tony Gatlif's "Latcho Drom" is a visual and auditory masterpiece, which showcases
the evolution of the music performed by the Gypsies, initiated through their travels
out of India, across parts of Europe, Egypt and North Africa.
Often facing persecution, the Gypsies are forced to lead an itinerant's life, filled with
misery and hardship, finding solace through music. It is these daily tribulations that
contribute greatly to the easily distinguishable "Gypsy sound", which manifests itself
through weeping violins, driving rhythms and deep, sorrowful lyrics.
Gatlif does well to let the music speak for itself, leaving very little space for any actual
dialogue to take place. As a result, the viewer quickly realizes the significance music
plays in the life of the Gypsy.
As the film progresses, we are able to “see” and hear the evolution of the music take place. Gatlif pays special attention to detail, which allows not only our ears, but eyes to witness. From bullock carts to horse-drawn carriages, turbans to fedoras, ouds to guitars, wooden clackers to metal spoons, the Gypsy absorbs and discards as he moves on.
Like the beginning, the ending of the film features the Gypsy community, now settled in Spain, engaging in song and dance. Though the instruments, musical set-up and land have changed, the “Gypsy sound” remains, one way or another. Heart-wrenching lyrics sung by voices filled with anguish, Gatlif once again delivers, letting the music explain the plight of the Gypsy people.
Through this incredible body of work, Tony Gatlif has shone a spotlight on a people often shrouded in mystery and misconception, uncovering their way of life and more importantly, their significant musical contributions that the world chooses not to acknowledge. Armed with a better understanding, perhaps it is time we give them the respect they so rightfully deserve, from one people to another."